The design duo invoke “elegance with an edge” and an essential feeling of wellness to transform spas, gyms and pools into on-board star attractions
Launched in 2010 by university friends Elliot March and James White, March & White has worked on all kinds of design projects, from private clubs and luxury residential projects to superyachts, all with a deep appreciation for symmetry, space, light and materiality. Headquartered in London and with offices in New York and Los Angeles, the company now has more than 40 employees.
The studio has developed interior designs for the 90-metre concept yacht Linea, the Carrara motor yacht in association with Nobiskrug and Top Gun with Abeking & Rasmussen. It has also worked on the Rafael Viñoly-designed luxury apartment tower 125 Greenwich Street in New York, and Royalty Mews, four loft apartments in Soho, London.
March & White calls its aesthetic “elegance with an edge” and is continually developing this concept in detail, with a furniture-and-bar line inspired by its yacht projects. With a love of new materials and arts and crafts, the studio also places a strong focus on research and experimentation to ensure that its designs constantly push boundaries.
Elliot March and James White on bathrooms, spas and gyms
“There’s a real focus on fun, relaxation and wellbeing among the younger generation of yacht owners. Just as with our development projects on land, bathrooms, spas and gyms - or rather, wellness areas - have become onboard essentials. Rather than have a dedicated gym or spa, however, the trend is to design a deck and build a wellness feel all the way through. It’s highly personal but there’ll usually be space for yoga and core training, for instance.
In recent developments such as 125 Greenwich Street, the spa, gym and pool are the star attractions. They have the best views and the best lighting. In yachts it’s important to decide if you want a wellness area or just a facility. If it’s wellness, then views, light and flow are vital. It then becomes the most relaxing space on the yacht and can adapt to being a party space when needed.
We’ve also seen those spaces become more family-oriented: places to come together. That affects their look and feel, and natural materials are now coming through as well as colour-controlled lighting, so you can adjust the mood according to use or the time of day. While the market is keen on wellness decks, they take up quite a lot of space, so flexibility of use is key.
Another trend in spa and relaxation areas includes bringing flowing water into them and expressing raw materiality in natural timbers and metals. That kind of Zen authenticity is playing a lot in hotels and high-end developments and these elements bring the outside in. That’s something we’ve done – create a deck area that feels both internal and external, perhaps courtyard-like, so you get the privacy and quiet yet benefit from views and light.
We love adaptable spaces and furniture – for example, a juice bar that becomes a cocktail bar in the evening. In one project we’re currently designing, the spa area has three sides that open up on the deck to create a genuinely inside-outside space. The clients also wanted it to be a screening room with soft chairs and beanbags – way more informal and connected than the traditional movie theatre, and with a connection to nature. Luckily, architectural glazing affords the opportunity to give these areas incredible views. If you’re spending a couple of hours in the gym a day, why shouldn’t you experience the environment?
In all our projects we seek to engage in storytelling. We did one project with a client in his late 20s and came up with the idea of the elements – earth, fire, water and air – thinking about how the space might have running water during the day and a cosy fire in the evening. That also fits with our preferred materials, such as open-grain wood. There’s a comfort and natural feel that you don’t get with engineered wood, particularly when you play with texture and grain direction, and mix it with metallic elements, raw stones and fabrics. Barn in the City has a beautiful product, a 150-year-old barn wood from a French chateau.
With inside-outside spaces, the future-proofing of fabrics is essential. Yachts experience lots of sunlight so veneers and materials have to be tested in our lab, to make sure they don’t discolour. And all fabrics have to be durable with salt water. But this also fits with the idea of relaxed living – you want to be able to sit in your swimsuits. Also, families tell us that they like hard-wearing durable interiors that don’t need to be changed every two years.
Again, we approach lighting to create mood. A bathroom or wellness area should be softly lit but getting the right kind of softness is super important. While LEDs are useful, we prefer softer, warmer lighting. It’s really calming. Having an option to set lighting colours and levels helps with flexibile spaces and there are options to combine both lighting and music to create a totally different experience.
In terms of technological partners, we tend to work with TOTO on its advanced sanitary systems and we have a close relationship with Dornbracht: a leading innovator which is constantly working with designers and yacht owners to push boundaries, such as housing a complete bathroom and wellness spa in a six-square-metre space. This suggests that every superyacht cabin could have its own wellness area, freeing the rest of the vessel for other facilities. It’s a potential way forward.”